The winning streak was fun while it lasted but the Chicago Fire was going to be brought to earth eventually and the defending champions from Houston did just that, scoring two goals in Toyota Park to post a 2-1 win and hald the Fire’s hot streak.
The win was Houston’s second straight and is the most clear sign that the MLS Cup winners are ready to get serious about winning the wide-open West. For the Fire, the loss kept Denis Hamlett’s squad from first place in the East, at least for now.
SBI Correspondents Alex Swaim and Stephen Wattles watched the match and share their thoughts after the jump:
Dynamo finding its way in crazy MLS
By ALEX SWAIM
I think I noticed watching the highlights and scores around the league today that things in MLS are just weird.
Columbus went to Toronto for a marquee match-up?
DC United and Chivas USA squared off in a bottom-feeder game?
Something is wrong here…
Alejandro Moreno is tied for third most strikes so far?! (No offense, but Moreno was a hold-up player back when Ching remembered how to shoot. No matter how cool his bicycle kick was in the first Dynamo game against Colorado, he was never much of a goal scorer.)
Houston entering Chicago (where they have never failed to get points) as the underdogs?
It’s like the world’s gone mad.
But that’s the state of affairs in MLS this season. There’s a surprise around every corner and it makes for some great storylines. Did anybody see Jorge Flores and Abita Harris play for Chivas USA?
Unfortunately, the soccer isn’t always as fun to follow. On a rainy night in Chicago, that was certainly the case, as the Dynamo took 3 points by scoring two ugly goals for the Fire’s one ugly goal.
I can live with that.
Once again the Dynamo dominated the midfield battle – especially in the second half – and had many scoring chances. Sadly, they once again had poor accuracy, bad synchronization, and no presence from the forwards. The rain didn’t help make it easier to play, but the problems shown in the play can’t be blamed on the rain. The player simply weren’t on the same page for large stretches of play.
The Dynamo have a fair share of good karma coming they have yet to use, accrued from early season misfortune, but it will not last forever. They cannot take the ball into the opponent’s third and give an easy turnover on half the possessions and expect to win games often. Dwayne DeRosario in particular needs to elevate his game in this area, as does Franco Caraccio.
Thankfully, they have Ricardo Clark to clean up the messes. Clark is playing some amazing soccer, both defensively and transitioning into attack, and even scored against the Fire. The shot was well struck, even if its path was completely redirected into borderline own-goal territory. Without Clark, the Dynamo are still winless.
On the same note, how good is Bobby Boswell playing right now? I would talk about how great a job Dominic Kinnear has done getting Boswell to chase after every play – a noted criticism of his play earlier in the season – but the timing has "I want to be a MLS all-star" written all over it. If he keeps this up (including his scoring pace!) he has my vote.
It’s amazing how just a few weeks difference has made the Wells for Boswell trade look different.
In any case, I think that the Dynamo will be able to capture points in San Jose and Dallas, refereeing permitting. Considering that on Boswell’s goal DeRosario was well offsides, I’m not going to hope for full points from both. Lady luck is just too fickle. But I will take a win against a very good Chicago side nonetheless. I’m going on vacation (by the time you read this, I’ll be in the Mediteranian, hopefully on a boat) and I really couldn’t think of a better way to leave town than with a Dynamo winning streak.
Now let’s hope they can keep it up!
Oh, and if want weird things about MLS this season, in two wins the Dynamo are in second place in the West (Dallas game pending). I guess some things don’t change.
Fire disappoint at home
By STEPHEN WATTLES
We were warned, we just didn’t notice. As Saturday wore on, the beautiful spring weather that had engulfed Chicago for the previous few days began to turn. The sun disappeared, the clouds darkened, the wind picked-up, and by the time we hopped in our cars for the ride to Bridgeview, the first few drops of rain began hitting the windshield.
After 90 minutes of football were completed we were soaked by the multiple downpours, cold from the swirling wind, and downtrodden from having witnessed the Fire be over-run and defeated 2-1 by the Houston Dynamo in their lone home game of the month of May.
After the previous two dominant road wins, the effort and the result from Saturday night were disappointing. The Fire started with an exuberance reflective of the party atmosphere in and around Toyota Park, as the fans were ready to welcome the Fire home and cheer them to the top of the league.
Unfortunately, once the Dynamo had withstood the initial Fire rush and gotten their nose in front on an unfortunate deflection and Jon Busch’s slip, it never felt as though they would return to Houston empty handed. The Fire’s performance was bereft of the work rate and camaraderie that was at the heart of the recent road wins. The Fire allowed Houston to dominate possession the entire second half and continuously committed foolish, albeit questionable, fouls around their area.
Bobby Boswell’s game winner was nothing more than the inevitable result of the overly conservative play the Fire were exhibiting, but it is sure to be a hot topic on the message boards this week considering the key player involved. From the ‘You Can’t Make This Stuff Up’ Department, Wilman Conde just happened to be the player front and center on the game-losing goal leading into the initial showdown with He Who Shall Not Be Named and the New York Red Bulls.
Conde committed the foul and then didn’t stick around to hold up the kick, allowing Houston to quickly take it before the Fire had set their defense. If you need any insight into how things are going between Conde and his teammates, watch the reaction of Diego Gutierrez (granted he was the man who was supposed to be marking Boswell), and Busch’s comments post game. It certainly doesn’t indicate all is forgiven.
But I for one chalk this up to mere unfortunate circumstance and am more interested in why the Fire struggled after looking so good the prior two weeks. Overlooking Houston based on their early struggles, or peaking ahead to next week’s showdown with New York, are the easy answers.
But the more I watch this team, the more I realize that the season is hanging not just on Cuauhtémoc Blanco, but also on Chris Rolfe. In last night’s game he was simply unable to get involved in the match. When Blanco, Rolfe, Thorrington, and Justin Mapp comprise the diamond behind Chad Barrett, they all can pop-up anywhere in the midfield. Once you plug a less versatile player like Calen Carr into that group you lose a great deal of that flexibility and it is easier to control.
Dominic Kinnear is too good a coach to not realize this and he astutely used Clark to mark Rolfe out of the match. Denis Hamlett was never able to make the tactical adjustment and simply gave up, making Rolfe his first substitute.
It’s a lesson I’d rather see taught now than in November, as it’s clear to me that anyone in the East who wants to wrest MLS Cup from Houston’s grasp is going to have to do it themselves at the Home Depot Center on November 23rd. If Hamlett is taught a similar lesson next weekend on the green and white striped concrete of North Jersey, I will be significantly less forgiving.